March 5, 2010 Subject:
Those Darn Girls!
It would be hard to make a better satire of 1950s sexism in the business world than this film even if you tried. A male executive runs an office composed of nine "girls". When a new hire
(a college graduate clearly taking a job well below her qualifications) suggests better ways of organizing things, she runs into resistance, especially from the office "leader" who put the present systems in place. She complains to the exec, who doesn't do anything hoping the dust-up will blow over---you know how girls are! The question posed is What Would You Do?
Well, I'd fire the ineffectual exec and put the new "girl" in charge.
This film was developed by the "Education and Training Division" of Alcoa...Any guesses how many women held executive positions in that company in the 1950s?
This film did bring to mind an experience I had with a bad filing system when I was a newly hired exec at Sun Microsystems. All the contracts files were alphabetical, according to the name of the first contracting party. Since half the time Sun was the first party, there were as many files under "S" as there were for all the other letters combined! When I suggested a different way to arrange the files, I got about the same reaction as the "girl" in the film...OY!
November 21, 2009 Subject:
Interesting curio of the Bad Old Days for women
Standard management school fare, but distasteful for its overt sexism and sad to watch if you're a
Things begin badly when the narrator makes a strange comment about "feeling sorry for people who have to run an office setup, especially if it employs a number of girls." The kind of interoffice rivalry portrayed in the film is common in every workplace, among men and women alike. The reasons for scripting this comment elude me completely, but its inclusion sets a derisive tone.
Betty has been with the company "almost as long as [her boss] George," yet she remains in her
entry-level position, forced to compete head-to-head with over-qualified, new hire Joan. George Barnes does describe Betty vaguely as a "leader," but after having innovated the filing system and served for years as a model of efficiency, she apparently has not been rewarded with an upgraded title nor any real supervisory powers over the women she leads. Adding insult to injury, The narrator tells us that Betty is "a little short on personality," even though we're hard-pressed to see much evidence of it — unless you count the fact that she complains about something, which is apparently very unattractive in a woman.
The female office workers are described universally as "girls." Mr. Barnes, with "eight or nine girls," is a very important man! I wonder if it occurred to anyone in 1958 that the same language would aptly describe a pimp? Regrettably, the women readily participate in their own degradation by referring to themselves and each other as "girls."
When Betty first approaches Mr. Barnes with her complaint about Joan, he carelessly allows her to
believe that he's on her side in the matter by promising to have a talk with Joan. Then he promptly blows off the whole thing. In this leadership vacuum, the situation comes to a head when Betty learns that Joan got together with the other women and changed the whole filing system behind her back.
Seriously, it confounds me that the intended focus of the film is the problem of Betty's resistance to change. Since we're in management class anyway, why not take Mr. Barnes to task for his dismissive and cowardly approach to the issue? Barnes was clearly ready for Change, he hired Change, but then he beat around the bush about it with Betty. What a jerk. I'm only sorry we didn't get to see how he did (or didn't) eventually resolve things once and for all.
Yes, Betty needs to realize that things change and she can't be Queen Bee forever. But the way they treat her, they're lucky she doesn't torch the office!
Lastly, try to imagine yourself watching this (and a slew of similar films) as a female management student in the late '50s or early '60s. Imagine that not-so-subtle, nagging feeling that you've hit your head on the glass ceiling before you've even got your degree!
Reviewer:Mental Cleanser -
April 12, 2008 Subject:
Beneath the sexism, good question for managers
"Sometimes I feel sorry for people who have to run an office setup... especially if it employs a number of girls! So darn many things can develop, out of nothing!" What a promising start!
The repetitive use of "darn" and "girls" is very, very weird. Once you get over the old-time feel, though, it's a bit interesting.
At root, the manager is the problem: it's his job to determine how his group should operate, and to ensure that interpersonal conflicts (or disputes over methodology) are dealt with. He assures Betty she's in the right (reinforcing her anger over the newcomer's meddling), but doesn't bother to communicate that to the rest of the staff. Is it any surprise things go downhill from there?
Now Joan's got the rest of the "girls" interested in modifying the system, and Betty's flipped out -- Mr. Barnes has a far worse problem to deal with now. I suspect the only reason he's so busy is that he keeps putting off easy tasks until they become difficult... that and he lets Betty defend her innovative alphabetical filing system despite sensible alternative suggestions.
What I want to know is what the film would recommend to its audience, or what actual managers would respond as their solution to the situation -- both then and now!
March 14, 2008 Subject:
I'll Be Honest....
I really loathe Betty. Who cares how long she's been with the organization? If she can't allow for new ideas for the benefit of the company then boot her right out the door! That said, Mr. Barnes is one smarmy guy...I bet he's got his eye on Joan.
July 16, 2007 Subject:
MY question is - why is Barnes so lazy and incompetent?
Not, "why is Betty resistant to new ideas". A very sexist film, showing overqualified and intelligent women (referred to as 'girls') forced to do menial tasks. Everytime Betty has a problem, Barnes just ignores them (by the way, Betty is with the company almost as long as Barnes and set up the whole filing system - why isn't she in management?). And when he does talk to her, he's very condescending.
If this in any indication of the reality of the workplace in the 50s, it's no wonder the women's movement happened!
I give it 5 stars for the historical value.
March 2, 2006 Subject:
Women's Problems at the Dysfunctional Office
This film is supposedly about Betty, an experienced clerical worker who is "short on personality, but darned efficient" and her "resistance to new ideas." Betty, despite her years of experience, still has no real seniority over the eight or nine other "girls" she shares her office space with. Her boss, Mr. Barnes, sits in solitary splendor in his spacious back office. Its like a harem. He addresses the women by their first names, but they always call him Mr. Barnes. The women share the cramped front office, which is crowded with the filing cabinets and the water cooler (used mostly by Barnes who, unlike the busy women, seems to do no real work). Barnes hires Joan, the "bright young newcomer," of the films name. It doesnt occur to him to consult Betty before hiring Joan who, with her intelligence and college education, is clearly over-qualified for the job. Its only a matter of time before Joan and Betty lock horns over Bettys pride and joyher filing system. Betty complains to Barnes. She assumes that Barnes will speak to Joan and resolve their conflict, but she didnt count on Barnes spinelessness and inability to appreciate Bettys hard work and dedication. Instead, Barnes adopts a head-in-the-sand attitude, and figures the whole situation will resolve itself. The film takes the attitude that Betty is the one with the problem because she doesnt appreciate Joans "new ideas." But the problem is the system that privileges a dim-witted man like Barnes, (who we never see doing any actual work) while forcing intelligent and competent women like Betty and Joan to squabble over the crumbs of the filing system. The womens movement of the sixties would bring in the truly "new ideas" that this workspace needs. Young, educated workers like Joan will move into positions of power after men like Barnes are put out to pasture. Unfortunately, its probably too late for older, less educated workers like Betty.
Reviewer:tracey pooh -
June 21, 2005 Subject:
well done but dated
the film is well acted and illustrates that classic
"oy! i can't believe so-and-so wants to switch things that are working fine" kind of border wars we all experience at work at one time or another.
so what have we learned?
1) I guess we've learned that it's good to
"learn new ideas" (go php! go ant! go xml/xsl!)
(er, sorry, quiet webmaster, quiet)
2) thank goodness "girls" are out and 2000s are in!
Reviewer:Christine Hennig -
July 12, 2004 Subject:
Why the Woman's Movement Happened
In this training film for office managers, a conflict flares up between Joan, a newly-hired employee with lots of new ideas, and Betty, a long-time employee who designed many of that officeÃÂs procedures. Joan has some helpful suggestions about how the filing system could be changed, but Betty resents the upstartÃÂs criticism of ÃÂherÃÂ filing system, which she thinks ÃÂhas always been good enough up to now.ÃÂ The office manager, Mr. Barnes, has to figure out how to resolve the issue, which he allowed to escalate by taking no action up to this point. The film ends without resolution, like the other films in this series, posing the discussion question, ÃÂWhy is Betty resisting new ideas?ÃÂ The answer, of course, is that Betty, as well as the other ÃÂgirlsÃÂ in this office, has been treated with absolutely no respect, even though the film makes clear that she essentially runs this office. They even admit that she has been there as long as Barnes. Yet she sits at a desk in the office pool, with no more authority than any of the other ÃÂgirlsÃÂ (they are always called that) in the office. This leaves her to fight like a junkyard dog over what little she can controlÃÂÃÂif she allows some young upstart to mess with ÃÂherÃÂ filing system, then she no longer can claim that it is ÃÂhers,ÃÂ and take complete and sole credit for it. Both Barnes and the narrator of this film have the temerity to act as if this conflict was of no importance, that the ÃÂgirlsÃÂ make ÃÂmountains out of molehillsÃÂ and get into spats over ÃÂnothingÃÂÃÂÃÂeven though records management is essentially what this office does, and itÃÂs clear that the ÃÂgirlsÃÂ handle all the real work of the department, leaving Barnes to answer ÃÂimportantÃÂ phone calls in his private, empty office and sign the occasional form that is brought to him. The real discussion question here, folks, is ÃÂWhy is this company so resistant to the idea of treating their female employees with respect?ÃÂ One of the most appallingly sexist films IÃÂve ever seen, which makes it a great historical document of why the womanÃÂs movement was necessary.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
March 17, 2004 Subject:
I'm on Betty's side
OK, so Betty doesn't have much "personality", and the new girl's smarter, younger and better looking. But are we going to put old Betty out to pasture after eight years of hard work on that filing system? I mean, come on...alphabetical filing! Who else would have though of that?!?
Penalized one star, only because it should have been longer!
August 15, 2003 Subject:
Saucer of milk to table three!
Watch Betty go Crawford on the Bright Newcomer for daring to suggest that the eight year old filing system could be improved!
August 7, 2003 Subject:
All I can add to the reviews below is that this resembled the first year of the job that I'm currently at. Change the clothes, but the dialog is still the same. Perfect!
March 27, 2003 Subject:
A classic! Business schools are still teaching resistance to change today and this is a great example of a classic organizational behavior issue that will always be here. Movie is so politically incorrect today it's funny. Nothing worse than being a supervisor in an office "with a bunch of girls". Every office has one of them... a girl with "little personality, but very efficient".
In this classic "What would you do?" film, The boss introduces Joan who is wearing FAR to much makeup, to the girls of the firm he runs. Soon Joan runs into odds with Betty, old office idea stalwart. Soon Betty complains to the boss, Boss says he will do something about it, but never does, Joan and Betty run into odds again, and my god, nearly duke it out (RAWR!) once again Betty complains. The end card reads "Why doesn't Betty adapt new ideas?" It's interesting that Betty is to blame for everything, I didn't think that was fair. ANYWAYS, this film has muted colors, which makes the film all that stranger. This is a MUST SEE on the site, I laughed my ass off.
Conventional wisdom has it that offices are nicer, cleaner and more civilized workplaces than factories. Look again. Bright Young Newcomer paints a picture of a generic, undistinguished office populated by feuding women and a laissez-faire male boss content to bask passively in his superior status. Reinforcing countless stereotypes and answering more questions than it asks, this film ignores the real issues in the office: gender and power.
VO: "You know, sometimes I feel sorry for people who have to run an office setup, especially if it employs a number of girls. So many petty things can develop, out of nothing!"
Scene of office with three women working
VO: "That's how the situation began. A little friction between a competent old employee and an intelligent, experience new one."
Two women stand at file cabinet
Betty goes to boss to complain
Boss: "What's the matter Betty?"
Betty: "It's the new girl, Joan Thomas. Just because she's been to college and worked a couple of other places she tries to lord if over everyone. Everything we do is inefficient."
Ken Smith sez: This film shows what happens when a "college-educated" woman joins the secretarial pool. Perky "Joan" has a lot of new ideas, but office veteran "Betty" feels threatened. "Mr. Barnes" (who also plays the physiologist in None For The Road) is left to straighten out the situation. Sexist to be sure, but Take A Letter -- From A To Z is better.
Offices Office workers Workers (office) Workers (women) Workers (clerical) Women (office workers) Workers (white-collar) Supervisors Managers Human resources Efficiency Sexism Gender roles Secretaries Water coolers Adding machines Office machines Supervision Youth vs. experience Experience vs. youth Patronage Behavior